How to get there
Playa Muerto certanily doesn't lie on a well travelled route. Getting there is not easy but definitely worthwhile the effort!
A note on responsible tourism
Playa Muerto is a peaceful, innocent, and pristine paradise.
May we all contribute to keep it this way.
If you like the help of an agency to arrange your trip to Playa Muerto, we recommend you use Ancon Expeditions. They are the most experienced travel agency for the Darién region, have local guides on the ground, and are extremely helpful.
If you prefer to travel individually, below we provide you with all the different ways of getting to this hidden paradise.
From Panama City via Puerto Quimba, La Palma, or Garachiné
From Albrook, the main bus terminal in Panama City, several buses depart daily to Metetí in the Darién Porvince (5hours/9$). From there, small buses leave frequently to Puerto Quimba (15minutes/2.50$). From Puerto Quimba, water taxis can take you to La Palma (every 30minutes/3$). From La Palma, taxi boats depart 3 times a week to Garachiné (2hours/12–15$). See below how to get from Garachiné to Playa Muerto.
When in Puerto Quimba or La Palma, ask around at the boat landing-stage if someone happens to be leaving to Playa Muerto direclty. Maybe you are lucky and you can get a ride straight to the community. Or ask if someone is leaving to Piña or Jaqué. They might drop you off at Playa Muerto on their way. The ride from La Palma straight to Playa Muerto takes about 3 1/2 hours, so don’t forget to put on sunscreen, bring a hat and raincoat to protect you from splashing water and/or heavy tropical showers. The coast of the ride per person is about 35-40$. Children usually pay half price.
From Garachiné to Playa Muerto
It is a 1 1/2 hour boat ride from Garachiné to Playa Muerto. There is no public transport. If you are lucky, people from Playa Muerto are in Garachiné at the time and you can catch a ride with them. They will charge you about 15–25$. Otherwise, you need to find your own boat and captain in Garachiné to take you there. Only few captains know how to enter Playa Muerto by sea, so finding someone might take a day or two. The cost of a private ride will be around 80$ to 100$.
If you need to stay overnight in Garachiné, there is one small guesthouse in town that offers rooms at around 12$ a night.
Calling Playa Muerto
Public phone: +507 838 60 28 (Spanish only; ask for Rangel or Eliezer)
Whatsapp: see contact info for respective housing options under Where to stay
Now that Playa Muerto has a phone and (very intermittent) internet connection, the easiest way to get there is to call a few days in advance to see if a boat can pick you up at Puerto Quimba, La Palma or Garachiné. Note that, depending on the number of travelers, a shared ride "como pasajero" will be much cheaper (35$ from Puerto Quimba/La Palma; less from Garachiné) than a privat "espresso" pick up at Puerto Quimba (around 260$ per boat; fits max. 12 pax approx.). See map and further details below.
By plane from Panama City to Garachiné
At the time of writing (Nov. 2014) AirPanama had stopped their service to Garachiné. But the situation can change again any time, so you might want to check. The flight takes one hour and costs around 70$.
By Plane from Panama City to Bahía Piña
AirPanama offers two weekly flights to Bahía Piña (one way 95$/1,5h). The flight in itself is a breathtakingly beautiful experience! As with Garachiné, you will need to find someone who can take you to Playa Muerto by boat. The distance is about the same, but prices tend to be slightly higher because Piña is even further away from civilization.
There are various footpaths through the jungle that lead to Playa Muerto. They take one or several days, depending on where you start (e.g. 9 hours from Garachiné). You'll need good physical condition, an adventurous spirit, and a native guide who has walked the exact same path many times before. Note that the border police might try to hinder you from walking to Playa Muerto, as they dread the unprobable but possible event of having to search for a foreign tourist gone missing in the Darién.
By cargo boat - for the really adventurous traveler...
There are two cargo boats that stop in front of Playa Muerto, El Halcon and Victoria. Both boats leave about 2-3 times a month from Mercado Mariscos in Casco Viejo, Panama City. The trip takes about 14 hours, usually overnight. There is a limited number of berths to sleep. The one-way fair to Playa Muerto is around 25$. There is no exact time schedule for these boats; you need to go to the port yourself to find out about exact departure times. Or you can WhatsApp Diogenes, owner of the Halcon, to find out (+507 6152-3882)
These boats are real cargo boats and come with no luxury. You'll need to bring your own sheets or sleeping bag. A very basic meal is provided during the trip that is included in the ticket price.
Onward travel to Colombia
Although it is a very rarely traveld route, crossing the boarder from Panama into Colombia (or the other way around) on the Pacific side is possible. From Playa Muerto, you will have to go to Jaqué first, and from there travel onward to the border by boat.